A House (Always Somewhat) Divided

Last week we watched the 13 part series on the history of the United States made in 1972 by British-born journalist, and naturalized American citizen, Alistair Cooke (1908-2004): America:

[British-American journalist Alistair Cooke (1908-2004): America. Photo by me, 2020.]

Overall it holds up surprisingly well 50 years on and I highly recommend his take… until about 1960. In its last episode, in which Cooke looks at “the present” for signs of what is to come, seen from now he loses his editorial grip on things a bit. (For instance, I recall not a mention of the 1969 moon landing, but him being mesmerized by a “hippie” commune in New Hampshire.) Time does need to pass before we can begin to assess how past events may be impacting our present, which is why historians generally AVOID prognosticating.

Similarly, given where we are now, where are we going? We cannot know that yet. We should not really even try to guess because we will probably, as Cooke did in looking ahead, get it largely wrong.

I wrote about this wider issue in part back on May 27. I think this variation is worth also noting here. There does seem now clearly in the United States to be two “points of views” about COVID-19:

1) It is a new illness about which doctors know little, is highly contagious, is of much higher than usual mortality rates (much more so than influenza) particularly to those over age 65 and already ill people (it is also according to medical professionals a terrible way to die – gasping for air), and there is no real treatment for it other than making a patient as “comfortable” as possible, so is a pandemic that requires extraordinary governmental measures to tackle, unlike other much better known communicable illnesses we usually must endure as humans and for which we at least have preventative vaccines and treatments.

Or:

2) The COVID-19 governmental response is a wild overreaction to an illness “no worse” than influenza, and is propelled by hysteria fanned primarily by leftist Democrats (called “blues” in U.S. political jargon, as compared to “red” rightist Republicans) who wish to wreck the U.S. economy in order to help the Democratic presidential nominee win in November, and make Americans increasingly dependent on state handouts and thus undermine civil society to ultimately pave the way for “communism.”

I found this NPR (National Public Radio) thread well-encapsulates the positions of the two camps… talking past each other:

[NPR thread on Twitter. Screen-captured June 19, 2020.]

Particularly have a look at this:

[NPR thread on Twitter. Screen-captured June 19, 2020.]

“I DON’T CARE.”

My reaction: I DON’T KNOW WHAT THAT REALLY MEANS.

Does that person – seemingly called “Patty” and whose profile states she is a “#legalimmigrant” to the U.S., as well as an unabashed supporter of the current president – think Americans are less susceptible to communicable illnesses than Europeans and others? Presumably not.

Does that person not care that more Americans have died of this since March than were killed in battle in World War I and there is no end yet in sight? Presumably she does care about American lives.

So does that person, who says she lives in California, actually just think this virus is really not one about which to be all that concerned, that those deaths have been greatly exaggerated and even deliberately mischaracterized in order to make them LOOK all the more bad and out of the ordinary, and that, in the end, this is all just one huge orchestrated hoax concocted to achieve a massive power grab? It seems so.

* * *

Interestingly the 2) view I have never seen offered by a working medical professional, which I consider where the best knowledge of the truth here must lie. When I see our doctors, nurses, and anyone who toils in a hospital routinely now suddenly covered up as if radiation is seeping into the room with them… I think maybe the rest of us ought to take that QUITE SERIOUSLY. When I no longer see that, and they tell me the coast is reasonably clear… only then I will begin to think, “Okay, we’re good here.”

As for the not caring about “…WHAT OTHER COUNTRIES DO!”?

I believe all countries to varying degrees have parts of their populations who possess a similar “inward” and “we are apart” outlook. Focusing on the U.S., this we see in 2020 much at times resembles the “isolationist” mindset of some before World War I (1914-1918) and World War II (1939-1945), as well as a perpetual suspicion from some of foreigners generally. What happens “over there,” they held, and still hold, is not our business and of no consequence to us; and if foreigners and any Americans actually think “over there” has anything to “teach” us, those foreigners who believe that should not come to America or if here already should go back “over there”… and any Americans who agree with those foreigners are not “real” Americans and should get out of America too.

There is also a small, usually overlapping, segment of American society of a “supremacist” bent that seems forever unwilling to admit or even able to comprehend that the rest of the world is not by definition inferior or the planet Mars. They do not accept that most of what sets people apart is purely surface stuff: cities may look different, languages may be different, and various traditions may be different, etc., but that people outside of the U.S. also have to get up to go to work, have to pay taxes and other bills, complain about their stupid governments too, and face life’s daily challenges just as do Americans.

[Excerpt from Passports: Atlantic Lives, 1994-1995. Photo by me, 2020.]

Currently the “inward” American view is seen most prominently among this president’s supporters. Interestingly, this president has also been married three times, including twice to women from other countries. One wonders: If those supporters in large numbers demanded he divorce his Yugoslavia (now Slovenia) born wife (legally she may be, but she is still from some “other country”) in order to have their votes in his re-election bid, which would he give up first? That third wife? Or a second term of the U.S. presidency?

* * *

The country I almost totally mistrust in this pandemic debacle is not the government of the United States, or that of any state government of the United States (blue or red), or that of any government which has to respond in some form to a voting electorate.

The most untrustworthy government of all is that of communist China, where the pandemic began. Despite that “government’s” decades-long horrendous track record in terms of human rights, its secretness, and its utter contempt for democracy, it was nonetheless granted access to the global economy, which has inadvertently helped facilitate the spreading of this virus much faster than it would have spread otherwise. I consider the U.S. moves since 1989 to treat the Chinese communists as a “normal” government to have constituted the biggest foreign policy blunder in U.S. history. Frankly, the virus should really be the last straw: none of us going forward should take at face value nearly anything put forward as fact by this so-called Chinese “government.” If it declares “2 + 2 = 4,” I would still pause for a moment and have to suppress a desire to double check.

Even in the midst of this pandemic THAT STARTED THERE, it has the gall to stir up border fighting with India. I know which government’s views of that confrontation I give far more credence to as constituting reality. Like America, it is the country with a free press and free multi-party elections and a perpetually arguing populace that is not kept in place by a communist police state gulag dictatorship.

[Waterloo (1970), starring Rod Steiger as French Emperor Napoleon and Christopher Plummer as British commander Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington. Photo by me, June 18, 2020.]

Historians have asserted that the 18th century (at least in Europe) ended really with Napoleon’s final defeat at Waterloo on June 18, 1815 – exactly 205 years ago back on Thursday. It has also been similarly pointed out that the 19th century might be said to have truly ended in 1914 with the onset of World War I. Given the magnitude of what we are enduring, will historians a century from now observe that the 20th century truly ended and the 21st century commenced only now, due to a pandemic, in 2020?

Further thoughts?

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